Over the weekend, #Charlottesville happened. The fact is, we must call evil by its name, we must acknowledge that White Supremacy and racism is corrosive and we must each use our voice. Why expect leaders to speak? Because #belonging demands visibility. Visibility involves acknowledging when something impacts one of your own. As a result, many called on pastors to not show up on Sunday with the pre-prepared sermon they already had. Many watched carefully to see if their organizations would address what had happened.
Did your leaders address #Charlottesville on Monday at work? Did your pastors speak out against racism on Sunday? If not, here is what you can do.
- You can speak out. Acknowledge your colleagues. If you are a leader, create a safe space for those on your team or in our organization to discuss their feelings. This also means speaking to your leaders. Let your pastor or leader at work know that you believe it is important to speak up and why. Gracefully illustrate how individuals are impacted by what is going on nationally and the impact when leaders and the organizations don't address hate and racism. In fact, people suffer.
- Do not equivocate. There is one side to evil. No comparisons, red herrings or tangential arguments. Call a thing by its name. Focus on what happened and why it is wrong. Acknowledge that.
- Listen. We don't always have to speak. Empathy is built from listening and understanding. If we are to create space for each other, we must practice active and compassionate listening.
- Write a note to someone you know may be struggling, or feels anxious, angry or frustrated. Show them you care and are there to support them.
- Don't insist on discussing racism or Charlottesville if someone is angry or doesn't want to engage. This is not the time to ask your one black friend to explain everything you don't know about why counter-protestors showed up.
- Commit yourself to understanding the history, origins, and legacy of race in America. Understand the breadth and depth of racism and White Supremacy. Start with some TED talks on race, bias and stereotypes. Two that would be helpful to start with are from Bryan Stevenson, Mellody Hobson and Chimamanda Adichie.
- Get close to the issue and the people affected. Be curious. Cultivate a willingness to learn from those who are experiencing bias and racism. Don’t insert your opinion over the experiences of people and their reality. Don’t argue with anyone’s pain.
- Interrupt bias. If you hear questionable statements or views, ask questions to interrupt. Ask for the statement to be repeated. Advise when something is not acceptable or leads to racist conclusions.
- Give yourself and others grace.
- Take good care of your mental and spiritual health. Events like #Charlottesville put us all on edge. Be good to yourself and others.
These are ten things you can do. We can do these today. We can start now. Be the influencer that persuades your leaders or pastors to engage. And do it yourself. Start with you.